My dad, James Whitmore, Part Eleven

What goes up has to come down, and that’s exactly what happened when I left Stockton a few years later with my tail between my legs, a drunk of the most continuous proportions, no prospects, no college credits, and no where to go but back to mommy or daddy, whichever one would have me.

But I digress. It was difficult to get in the routine of college, even Callison which was lax to say the least, but you were still required to attend classes. Read the homework assignments. do the work and show up. Act interested. I took classes with names like “Heritage of Man” – basically an English class with an emphasis on modern writers like Jack Kerouac. Taught in a loose style rooted in the belief that if students were involved they would perform better academically. A true Socratic method of teaching. Callison was a good college. I was just not ready to take advantage of all that it offered.

There were classes taught by red-haired madmen where all you did was read the massive book “Plato’s Republic” and the final was to read the entire missive out loud while drinking wine at the professor’s house. I think I passed that class.

Rock ’n’ Roll was everywhere and I had a beautiful guitar that I used more as a prop than a player. I was never a player but I was a poser. I posed with that guitar. Learned some chords. Why? Girls, of course. Don’t we men live our lives for girls. Heterosexual men anyway. Things are different today but not so much. And girls loved those playing rock ’n’ roll. Didn’t have to be a star just part of the scene.

Late 60s. San Francisco. Bay area. We formed a band of sorts, “Velveeta, the American Cheese Band.” It had several players float in and out but it was started basically by me and another because the other was trying to avoid the draft. So many were being drafted then and being shipped off to Vietnam. So many of our friends were dying in an unjust war. So, we started a band and hooked up with some people that knew how to record music and had access to a recording studio. We recorded and went off to Los Angeles armed with our demos to make our name.

All of us were from Callison College. Before all of the band madness, this music madness, this new music business madness, there was Callison. In many ways, a magical place. A magical time.

All I wanted to do was drink, make love, make music and live like a king. On my dad’s money, of course. He was paying a pretty penny for Callison and even had an account with the school that I tapped into without his knowledge on a couple of occasions. I was a real winner, let me tell you.

There was some doubt among college administrators whether I should be allowed to go to India the second year of school. Remember, Callison College’s mission was international studies and they sent the sophmore class to study in India for a year. I had performed poorly my first year. In fact, I don’t think I passed a single class. But I was allowed to go with the kids to India nevertheless. Don’t know why. Probably dad had something to do with it, as usual.

Off we went from San Francisco, with stops in Bangkok, Thailand, Hong Kong, China and Tokyo, Japan, among others. I was off and running of course. Drinking at every stop, drinking while getting to the stop and behaving in such a way that belies comprehension. In Bangkok, drunk and late at night I went looking for more, serious intoxicants in an obvious demonstration by way of the local cabbies. Always a source of amusement, especially since in 1970 the Vietnam war next door was still raging. Good Americans were losing their lives. I remember through my haze the military tanks rumbling through the streets I was rumbling through with an equal commitment for a significantly different cause. Again, lost on the streets of a town. This town happened to be in Southeast Asia.

Part Twelve: India madness. Near death. Streets of Tehran and the ambassador’s daughter.


About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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